Monday, August 20, 2018

A few random thoughts and reactions to the action and hijinks of SummerSlam weekend

I'm going to break this one into a few points as I look back at my personal thoughts on SummerSlam weekend, especially what worked and didn't.
Ronda Rousey: WWE's most over champion! Image credit: WWE.com.

  • The NXT Tag Team title opener was a solid match, but it really threw too much out there early in the night. Big false finishes and crazy spots are a staple of the black and gold brand, but its pace really felt like it wore out the crowd for parts of the next match.
  • EC3 feels completely out of place in NXT, mostly because he's a traditional WWE style wrestler in a world of indie super-gold. But his battle with Velveteen Dream really allowed him the chance to shine, even if Dream's victory seemed like an assured thing to me. With Dream effectively now an antihero face, he could easily step into the main event spot heading into Takeover: War Games against Ciampa while the Brits versus The Undisputed Era can highlight the card's namesake.
Velveteen Dream looked like a million bucks at Takeover. Image credit: WWE.com.
  • In the eight years since their last match way back at EVOLVE 6, Adam Cole and Ricochet have both grown immensely. But I'm also very glad that Cole no longer carries the North American title, as its felt like it had no value as party of the ongoing Undisputed Era wars. I hope for a quick rubber match and for Ricochet to go on and take on some new challengers, perhaps other EVOLVE alums like Keith Lee and Matt Riddle. 
  • I feel bad for the NXT women. The brand is so heavily focused on the top two women on the brand and then calling one of those people up every few months, that it hasn't really felt like they've been on solid footing since Bayley, Carmella, Nia Jax and Asuka came to the main roster. Kairi Sane isn't anywhere close to ready for a place on Raw or Smackdown where she would quickly lost (see Moon, Ember.) Shayna will be on the main roster by Survivor Series, and I honestly could see it happening in the next 36 hours. Kairi can start building new feuds with new stars, and wrestlers like Bianca Belair can finally get some time on a bigger stage.
  • The main event match between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano may be the worst of the three they've wrestled. By no means was it a bad match, but it felt very much like a do-over of their street fight. Topping the Unsanctioned Match isn't realistic, but I'm really bothered that this was the second straight pay-per-view to end with Gargano being a moron. 
  • The pre-show to SummerSlam was underwhelming. The opening encounter was a head-scratcher, Gulak and Alexander needed more time and The Revival were obviously not the team to knock off The B Team. But their matches worked really well for the live crowd, as they set up the crowd to be blown away with a complete reversal in the next contest.
  • Rollins and Ziggler went only twenty-two minutes, but this match was leaps and bounds above their Iron Man match. Place at the open of the card they could afford to go long and epic without worrying about worn out fans sitting on their hands or counting rather than watching what over-booked timed nonsense came at Extreme Rules. Both men seemed more at ease with a match not bogged down the clear hands of others, and they shined with Ambrose and McIntyre as key seconds.
  • The New Day did what they needed to do and made the Bludgeon Brothers look vulnerable. They also accomplished the same thing the majority of the Smackdown matches did: set up a clear place for a Hell in a Cell rematch between the two units. 
  • I have to give props to the folks on the Raw writing side for knowing when a squash match should be on the card no matter the place of their foes. Strowman beat Owens and Balor beat Corbin, both in under two minutes. The Monster Among Men and the Demon both needed strong victories to make their characters continue to work and they delivered that in spades.
The Demon rises! Image credit: WWE.com.
  • The booking of Charlotte and Becky Lynch seems fraught with peril. Charlotte is in heavy danger of becoming a female Roman Reigns, booed by the fans that are tired of the title basically being her anointed place on the roster. The cheers heel Becky received made it clear that the fans aren't going to turn on her in favor of the Queen. 
  • Joe and Styles and Miz and Bryan should not have been so close on the card. Both matches were far too similar in their style to work as well as they could individually. They did both succeed at making it clear these feuds are far from over, and like the New Day and Bludgeon Brothers, seem perfect for a Hell in a Cell match. 
  • Jeff Hardy going eleven minutes surprised me, as it really does feel like he's on an exit path on Smackdown. My fingers are crossed that he's about to wrap up, perhaps with a feud with Orton, and move aside to give us the Rusev / Shinsuke Nakamura feud the US title deserves. 
  • The four Rs now rule supreme in the Raw women's and men's division as pretty much seemed clear from the get go. Ronda's domination of Alexa made me quite happy as I was terrified another Bella heel turn was in the works. The Reigns and Lesnar match was mercifully short, which put at the end of the card was the smartest move they could make. 
  • Strowman coming forward and making his attention clear pre-match made sense. His failing to have said match doesn't. For a man buried under a dozen ladders at Money in the Bank and won, nothing Lesnar did to him should have kept him down to not cash in on Roman. I wonder if we're not moving into an injury storyline to give him time away from the card, or if WWE just will continue with him not cashing in the case for no good reason. (It still bothers me that his character as presented didn't cash in during all of Lesnar's appearances over the lead up.) Now that it's been lined up that Strowman doesn't want to be an opportunist like so many previous holders, he has no reason to book the match wherever and whenever the hell he wants and should get it done sooner rather than later. 
I've seen several lackluster reviews of this year's event already. Honestly I'm a bit perplexed. WWE finally made a few smart decisions in booking while also giving fans a lot of what they wanted. Top to bottom the card either featured solid wrestling or solid storytelling, and in some cases, both. Raw is now ready to build some new feuds for all their titles while Smackdown has started three feuds that could be hot over the next several months. 

Of course, WWE's week to week booking could take them anywhere. But right now, color me intrigued heading into Hell in a Cell. Here's hoping WWE can continue smart booking and great storytelling in the weeks and months ahead. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Let's see how I've done on my Wild Predictions for 2018... so far

Back in February I made some educated guesses of what I thought might happen between then and the end of the year. It's been almost six months since those predictions, so it seemed like a good time to review where I'm at compared to my original guesses.

One thing I love in wrestling is making guesses about where wrestling stories will go over the course of six months to a year. So today is the day, I'm going to share a few thoughts about the big promotions and wild guesses as to where they will go. The picks are in italics with any updates afterwards.

WWE:



Things are still looking good for Seth, even if it's on Raw.
Image credit: Seth Rollins / WWE.
Seth Rollins will be pushed as one of the company's top babyfaces... on Smackdown.

I got this one half-right. Seth Rollins is arguably the most over face of the male Raw roster. Doesn't look like he's jumping to the other brand anytime soon. FAIL.

Roman Reigns will not win the WWE Universal title at Wrestlemania.

100% correct. He might win in a few weeks at SummerSlam, but I suspect Braun Strowman or Kevin Owens walks off the show with the title. WIN.

The Mixed Match Challenge will end with the crowning of the first ever Mixed Match Champions, a title that will be defended across both brands.

Sadly, no cross brand tag titles came out of the series. But everyone is expecting some kind of women's title soon, so we will see.

AJ Styles will retain his title over Shinsuke Nakamura when he and the Balor Club turn heel and unite. 

Backwards on this one. The Balor Club wasn't involved and it was Nakamura that turned heel. I still wouldn't mind seeing him align with Gallows and Anderson though. 

Ronda Rousey will not win a title in 2018. Asuka will move to Smackdown and challenge Charlotte, keeping both women away from each other. 

So far I'm 100% right on this one, because thankfully I didn't go far enough to predict Asuka's Wrestlemania win. I suspect this will be a money match someday, but Asuka will have to be rebuilt between now and then.

Andrade "Cien" Almas will make his main roster debut after Wrestlemania and be a world champion by the end of the year. 

The first half was true. I still think he's got a very good chance to hold a title soon, especially with news that management is high on him as a top heel.

Kassius Ohno will replace a retiring Sheamus as partner to Cesaro, losing one of his names in the process.

Ohno is still in NXT... so far.


NXT:
Aleister Black will win the NXT title and hold it for the rest of 2018.

He did take the belt, but he has already lost it. I can't be happier though that Ciampa holds it however. FAIL.


A welcome sight, even thought it proved a prediction wrong.
Peyton Royce and Billie Kay will remain on the show and become major threats for the women's title. 

Instead, the Iiconics are on the main roster doing... something? This would have probably been better. FAIL.

The Undisputed Era will defend successfully against every current NXT tag team, but will drop the title to a surprise team. 

They haven't quite made it through the roster, but Moustache Mountain is the definition of a surprise team. I'll count this as a WIN

TM-61 will be released and immediately start a strong indie run.

Turns out NXT isn't done with The Mighty, as they're now called. I think the two men have a huge upside, but I still have doubts they will ever make the main roster.

NJPW:

Kazuchika Okada will drop his title at Dominion. 

Okada dropped the title at Dominion to Kenny Omega. Spot on. WIN.


IWGP champion Kenny Omega.
Juice Robinson will win either the Intercontinental or United States title before years end.

Juice Robinson isn't doing so well in the G1, but he won the United States title at Dominion. WIN.

The Young Bucks will participate in their first World Tag League after declaring themselves heavyweights.

They're heavyweights and tag champions, but we've got a few months to go until the Tag League.

The Elite versus Bullet Club feud will continue for most of the next year.

The feud did continue, and now it's morphed a bit into the Bullet Club Elite vs. the Bullet Club OGs. Should be fun to see it continue through at least Wrestle Kingdom. WIN.

If he doesn't sign a WWE contract, Rey Mysterio will make an appearance for the company in Japan.

He made his in-ring debut in a six-man at Dominion. Here's hoping we still get a one on one between him and Liger. WIN.

Cody will participate in his first G1 this year.

Failed on that one because Cody's busy filming Arrow again. Still hoping we see him in one. FAIL.

Fissures between Suzuki and Suzukigun will lead to Zack Sabre leading a turn on Minoru Suzuki.

Sabre-gun still isn't a thing yet. I can still see it happening by year's end however.

American fans will be apoplectic when the company books Michael Elgin in a title match at Strong Style Evolved.

Michael Elgin won the NEVER Openweight title in Japan, but he and NJPW have kept him off American shores, probably wisely. FAIL.

ROH:

Dalton Castle will drop the ROH title to a member of the Bullet Club, but it won't be Cody.

I suppose I still have a chance here should Dalton win back the title, but he dropped it to Jay Lethal of all people.

Kenny Omega will make more than one pay-per-view appearance with the company in the lead up to All In. Kota Ibushi will make at least one as well.

Both men wrestled at the Supercard of Honor event earlier this year. WIN.

Chris Jericho will wrestle at least once for the company and will have a major match at All In.

Not going to happen at All In. But Chris Jericho will definitely make an ROH appearance during their events on his cruise with the Alpha Club vs. Bullet Club match. PARTIAL WIN.

Another New Japan star will hold a title in the company in 2018.

Though New Japan stars have made appearances, Cody and the Young Bucks are the only NJPW talents to score new titles this year (the six man tag belts.)

Juice Robinson will start making regular appearances for ROH.

He has had no American matches for ROH. Probably not going to get this one, especially if rumors of WWE's interest prove too compelling for him.

Christopher Daniels will get a high profile match but not regain the ROH title.

Do six-man tag title matches count? Probably not. Here's hoping for the next four months with him getting some stronger matches in the worse towns he's ever been in. (SCU!)

The tag titles will be held at least once this year by a team that isn't currently on ROH television.

They've been left on the Briscoes for much of the year, but several new teams have debuted, even if none are particularly interesting.

    Impact:

    Brian Cage will be the man to unseat Austin Aries for the championship.

    He hasn't won the World title yet, but he's the reigning X champion now. Pentagon beat Aries for the belt, but Aries regained it. 

    The Grand Championship will officially be unified with the Global title.

    Done and done. 100% correct. WIN.

    The male roster will see less new additions for the rest of the year than the Knockouts roster, as the company seeks to rebuild their women's division. 

    Both rosters have continued to gain stars, but the women's division has added a few more in the last couple months. 

    Matt Sydal will work his way through multiple titles in the company, but won't win the World title. 

    He's held the X division belt for most of the year. I can still see him getting a run with the tag belt as well.

    LAX will lose the tag titles to a makeshift tag team.

    Eli Drake and Scott Steiner are pretty makeshift. The pair didn't hold the belts long either. WIN.

    Taya and Johnny Impact will form a unit against LAX upon Diamante's return. 

    We got the OGz instead, which honestly may be better. Always a chance this feud is still coming as well.

    Sami Callihan will be in the Global title picture before year's end.
    It's back to the World Championship now, but I think there's a good chance Austin Aries versus Sami Callihan is the Bound For Glory main event.

    Friday, July 20, 2018

    MOTW 6: Haku vs. Hoodie Howlett

    Haku has been a name on people's lips since his appearance at this year's G1 Special. After a decade and a half out of the spotlight from major promotions (outside a Wrestle Kingdom pre-show appearance) he's back in the world of wrestling with a vengeance. How much of a part he will play in the BC Firing Squad saga remains to be seen, but it's great to see a living legend showing how good he still is after all these years.

    But this wasn't the first time he came out with intensity this year. He made an appearance for the reborn Metro Pro Wrestling out of Kansas City just a few weeks before his latest New Japan appearance. Check out his battle with KC local Hoodie Howlett.

    Thursday, July 19, 2018

    A new home for the Wrestling Deep End

    The Wrestling Deep End has a new web-link to go with its new name.

    The new website location is:

    wrestlingdeepend.blogspot.com 

    Be sure to update your links and what not and we will be back very soon with new updates!